TEDx: What Leads To Juvenile False Confessions?

As a follow up to the disappointing news of “confession” of Brandon Dassey being upheld by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, listen to this brief lecture on what leads to Juvenile False Confessions:

What we do know is that false confessions or admissions were present in approximately twenty five percent of wrongful convictions of people later exonerated by DNA evidence. Turns out they were innocent. These cases are crystal clear because we have the DNA so they didn’t do the crime and yet one quarter of them confessed to it anyway. And at this point, from countless research studies, we have a pretty good sense of why people falsely confess and why some people like Brendan Dassey are at greater risk for doing so. So we know that youth are especially vulnerable to providing false confessions. In one study of exonerations for example only eight percent of adults had falsely confessed but forty-two percent of juveniles had done so.

She describes an incredible experiment she describes:

We did a mock interrogation experiment in our lab here at FIU. With parent permission for all minors of course and all the appropriate ethical approvals we falsely accused teens and adults of cheating on a study task, an academic dishonesty offense that we told them was a serious as cheating in a class in reality. Participants had witnessed a peer cheat someone who was actually part of our research team and was allegedly on academic probation and we gave everyone a tough choice: you can lose your extra credit for participating in the study or accuse your peer who will probably be expelled because of his academic probation status. Of course in reality none of these consequences would have panned out and we fully debriefed all participants afterward but most teenagers (fifty-nine percent of them) sign the confession statement falsely taking responsibility for the cheating. Only three teams out of 74 or about four percent of them asked to talk to a parent when we accuse them of cheating despite the fact that for most of them their parent was literally sitting in the next room during the study.